We spoke to Q Da Fool about his D.M.V. upbringing, signing to Roc Nation, and how he hooked up with Zaytoven.
Q Da Fool‘s look is distinct. He wears a kufi. His arms are covered with tattoos, and his face is accessorized with a few, as well. His regional tonality immediately gives away where he’s from: “Murriland.”
Goldlink’s Grammy nomination in 2016 is proof the DMV area is no longer in the come-up phase. While DMV area rappers continue to capitalize off of this megaphone, Q took a different route. He created a lane to speak unabashedly about street life in Largo, Maryland — in the same way veterans Fat Trel and Shy Glizzy did for D.C.
Q, born George Hundall, often holds a demeanor that a ten-pound bag of bricks couldn’t break through. However, his menacing stories of the streets just outside the Nation’s Capital provide an entryway.
He first started freestyling around the age of 14 while a freshman in high school. His teenage misgivings and two stints behind bars, at 16 and 20, caused him to move from school to school. His name rang bells when people found out he was making music. He was a member of the rap group Pakk Boyz Gang, consisting of the brothers (or “brovas”) he grew up with.
He eventually parted ways with Pakk Boy Gang to take his rap career seriously. He started his own collective, Rich Shootas, while developing his own skills.
In 2015, he gathered some momentum with the release of his mixtape Trap Fever, a raw 11 track project attracting the attention of famed Atlanta producer Zaytoven. The project consisted of dirty chopped and screwed street anthems, like “Pints and Zips.”
His work as a mixtape rapper caught the ears of record labels. In 20018, he signed to Roc Nation. With label support, he released his Zaytoven produced 100 Keys album, featuring buzzing singles “Win” and “For Real.” At the beginning of this year, he released the EP Bad Influence with Kenny Beats.
On Bad Influence he confidently claims his spot at the top, while terrifying details of his life in the streets are shared. His menacing street anthems are gritty as he bombastically raps over Beats’ dirty, drill-infused punches. On “100,” Q spits:
They say the hood just like the wave, don’t get caught up in it
And please don’t jump inside this game if you ain’t brought up in it
I had codefendants, cases, say they love we shinin’, hate we winnin’.
Q Da Fool is currently on tour with Shoreline Mafia, working on a forthcoming EP to be released later this summer, and taking breaks between shows to father his twin sons. Okayplayer caught up with Q to learn why it’s important to leave an impression on the DMV, and beyond with his street anthems.
What’s it like getting signed to Roc Nation so far?
Whatever I want to do [Roc Nation] basically just lets me do it. It’s been lit. Everybody look at it like I’ve made it or something, but I still look at it like I’m still grinding. Back home everyone is proud of me because I’ve signed to Roc Nation. That’s with [JAY-Z], so he’s fucking with me too.
When I went inside [the Roc Nation offices] they were playing my music. It wasn’t even really like I was trying to promote it. They were just like “we like this song and that song.” They were really rocking with me. When I went to the other labels they were just sitting down. They weren’t really saying anything to me. Roc Nation just fit me for real, for real.
Before starting your collective Rich Shootas there was Pakk Boyy Gang. Why did you split ways with the group?
I was in my teenage years, to be honest. I was just growing up running the streets, skateboarding, smoking just being bad like any other teenage boy growing up in the hood. So Pakk Boyy days is more so my teenage Q days. I distance myself from the group when I saw that everyone wasn’t going as hard for it as I was. I just didn’t feel the same energy I was giving out and putting in.
How have you seen yourself grow over these past few months?
Having my two sons forced me to grow up a little bit more. It’s like you have kids and it just makes you want to do better in life and make stuff happen. So I think my sons really helped me change the way that I live a little bit. Me signing to Roc Nation just made me want to go harder and go in the studio more, but my sons make me want to make sure I go in the house every night and make sure they’re good and stuff like that. So that’s what really caused me to want to change the way that I be moving.
How do you maintain a solid relationship with your sons, while moving at a such a rapid pace?
Sometimes I be sad because I be missing little stuff, like them walking. Every time I get a chance to be with them I just got to spend extra time with them. I be on the road crazy, but I know that I’m grinding so they don’t have to worry about nothing. They don’t have to go through the stuff that I went through. So that’s what I’m working hard for. Like my mother and my whole family is still in their life, so they are still getting that love. I feel like by the time they are two I’m going to be where I really need to be at, so that’s what I’m really grinding for right now.
What does success look like for you right now?
Everybody thinks that I made it. But I didn’t really make it. I’m still in an apartment. I got cars and shit, but I really didn’t make it. I feel like making it is when you just feel happy and you can just wake up and do whatever you want. That’s when I feel like I’ve made it. I still gotta grind. Like, I’m still out here grinding hard. I got family I gotta help, I got aunts and people I gotta help. So I just gotta keep grinding.
Tell me about working with Zaytoven on your 100 Keys project?
Working with Zaytoven was organic. My manager Dollar [is from] Atlanta so him and Zaytoven already knew each other for years. So he just played some of my music for Zaytoven, and he sent me one beat, and he was like, “man that shit is too hard.” That’s when I knocked out the whole tape in one week and sent it to him, and he was like we gotta take this to a label and that’s how I got my deal with Roc Nation.
So Zaytoven essentially walked your papers to Roc Nation?
Yeah, something like that.
Tell me how you and Kenny Beats first linked?
So I was in his studio one night and then I was in there the whole week — just locked in. So it was just like a genuine vibe. He mixed and mastered [Bad Influence], so that’s why I really mess with Kenny.
If someone has never listened to your music before how would you describe your sound to them?
It’s like I’m talking to the underdogs. Like it’s spiritual. It’s for the streets. It’s also for like for all of us. Most of my songs now be having a meaning to it. Fans be wanting me to dumb it down, they be like, “where the old Q Da Fool at?” But I be on some new shit. They are going to eat it up regardless. My new shit is more lyrical. It got more meaning to it.
Can you tell me about how religion impacts your music? I know that you converted to Islam.
I speak on my religion sometimes in my music, but I really don’t like to mix my religion with my music because it’s weird. There’s really not any way to mix it, you know what I’m saying? So, like, with my religion, it really made me a man reading the Koran. I grew up with my grandmother who was a reverend so I know about the Bible. But I never really understood the Bible for real, for real, but when I picked up the Koran it was more understanding. I just understood. Some people explained to me what certain stuff meant in the Koran, but certain stuff I just understood and it made sense to me.
Now there be a lot of stuff that I’m not supposed to be doing that I do. Like, I still smoke with my kufi on.
Priscilla Ward is a celebrated writer whose work has been featured in Essence, Salon and is also the creator of #BLCKNLIT. You can find her tweeting about bell hooks, sandwiches and art shows @MacaroniFRO.